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Apple’s 3.5mm Headphone Jack Removal – A Big Problem for Airlines

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Apple launched the new iPhones last week, and the biggest news about these devices are the fact that they don’t come with a 3.5mm headphone jack. We tried to analyse what could be possible reason for this change & gave our thoughts. You can check out the article on that and let us know what do you think.

But now you might think why a big deal is? Well, it is indeed a huge deal. Many people think that the problem is confined to only the availability of these headphones/earphones with a lightning connector. But there’s more to it. This gives rise to many new problems and today we are discussing one here. The lack of 3.5mm headphone jack is a significant issue for airlines. Why may you ask? Well, let’s talk about IFE (In-flight entertainment) a service almost all the major airlines are offering.

When it comes to IFE, the 3.5mm headphones were the standard. So this essentially allowed anyone just to pop in their headphones and use the IFE systems. But now it is going to be quite complicated. For iPhone 7 users and beyond that, this will be never same anymore. For the airlines, that do not provide headphones, and for passengers who prefer to use their own, this is a big issue. So can be done now? There are three ways to do it –

Ignoring the change completely and provide headphones or adapters –

This might be the most simplest solution to this issue. Provide a headphone to the passengers and let them enjoy the IFE systems as they are using it currently. And for people who want to use their own pair to avoid the cheap ones that airlines provide, then just provide them with an adapter which they can use. Makes complete sense right? No, not really. This solution comes with its own set of setbacks.

Firstly, this solves issue only for people who are using lightning headphones. So people who are using a Bluetooth headphones this is not doing any good. Secondly, these adapters can often cause a lot of connectivity issues with most of the systems. It can suffer from poor connectivity, the possibility of damage to customers’ headphone. And most importantly, in the case of any troubleshooting issues, it will cost a lot of time to the flight attendants.

Provide Apple’s Lightning port as an audio-out option –

Here, airlines can contract IFE specialists and make this facility available to the iPhone users. But it is probably going to be a lot expensive that you think. In this case, we are talking about proprietary Apple technology with a DRM chip, which is likely to require a costly license. And going off brand with these connectors would result in same issues of an uncertified adapter. Moreover, now that Apple has changed the way you listen to music, the chances are that more and more OEMs will follow the lead and start removing headphone jack. We already see some of the devices like the Moto Z, etc. doing it. So changing the whole system again for them later on, will cost another fortune.

Certify Aircraft for Bluetooth –

This is more like a work in progress kind of thing. No IFE provider yet has managed to make Bluetooth headphones or really any other Bluetooth device pair with the seatback and get it certified. So expecting this to happen doesn’t make any practical sense. Vice-president of marketing, JetBlue Airlines stated that as of today no IFE provider could offer Bluetooth connectivity in headphones.

Other industry experts say that a frequency of 2.4 GHz wireless will be shared, so obviously there can be a lot of factors related to interference. So basically it is a lot more complex. Well, it is going to take a lot of time and resource to figure this out. But now may you ask why so much fuss? Why change something like this only for something that Apple changed in their smartphones without even thinking about all this?

Well, it is a huge deal. According to reports, Apple’s iPhones take up to 40 percent share of the U.S market Smartphone market. Apple has been amongst the top 5 smartphone vendors in the world since 2009 according to a statistics from Statista. So chances are, still a majority of people travelling in these airlines will have the new iPhones and it might be A problem for them to use the IFE here.

iphone-market-share

In fact, there are special services for streaming these, especially on your iPhones and iPads. So all this might be greatly affected, which in turn would directly affect the in-flight experience. And that is something that airlines definitely don’t want. Well, at this point in time, it remains to be an unanswered question that we will be reflecting on some point later. Stay tuned for more info on this and feel free to share this content to make others aware of this issue.

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